When A Child Blames Themselves For Abuse

It’s a common thing. In fact, it’s an epidemic. When children are abused, they often blame themselves. It doesn’t make sense at first glance, but then again, it makes perfect sense.

As a child who suffered abuse, I have spent time during my adult years dealing with the repercussions and even healing from it. Something I didn’t learn until fairly recently is why children take responsibility when something bad happens to them, when something bad is done to them.

As an adult, looking through eyes with life experience and wisdom, I know that when someone does something to hurt a child, whether it’s hitting them, repeatedly yelling at them, cutting them down, or molesting them, there is nothing a child could possibly do to ever deserve such treatment.

As a kid, being mistreated didn’t make sense to me at first, and when things don’t make sense, the brain freaks out in fear. My body would go into fight or flight mode, with cortisol and adrenaline pumping all out. In these moments, when I felt completely powerless, one way that my brain felt better was to take responsibility. That was how it made sense of things. Something bad happened to me, I must have deserved it. These thoughts actually made me feel better. Makes perfect sense to a child.

I didn’t even have to be threatened to not tell anyone. It started when I was so young that it became my normal from the beginning. Anytime something bad happened to me, I knew I played a part in being deserving of it, and when I got older, spilling the beans about anything would make me get in trouble (I felt). It was my fault. It was my fault that I was treated badly.

abused child

Image Courtesy: http://psytreasure.com/

If a child is hit, they must have done something to deserve it. If they are verbally decimated, they obviously did something wrong and are bad. If they are molested, it’s their fault. It is logical to the brain, and makes it feel better. Keep in mind that the brain is linear and logical and needs certain things to make sense of the world. When these parameters are met, it relaxes out of fight or flight mode.

During my journey of healing, I’ve been able to travel back in time, using hypnotherapy, to see over and over again, how I took on responsibility for behaviors perpetrated by others during my young life. The awesome thing about revisiting these moments using hypnotherapy, is connecting with that bit of me that seems to be stuck in time, still believing that she is to blame for bad things that happened to her.

I can make the connection with that younger version of me and share my adult wisdom with her, letting her see that she was absolutely not to blame in any part whatsoever. In that moment, the younger me realizes that she did nothing wrong. She’s not bad. She’s a beautiful little child who had some crazy-ass people doing crazy-ass things to her. She is instantly able to let go of all the blame and shame, and take back her personal power. That’s all it takes to shift and release these old beliefs. Like magic! A miracle!

So, you ask, so what? Well, when you carry these pesky old beliefs around with you, they affect you in ways you can never tell. They contribute to your not feeling so fabulous about yourself. When they are pinged on by something happening to you, you act out (without consciously knowing why) in a myriad of ways. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that.

You might road rage, or become triggered when you see someone being treated unfairly, or become triggered when something happens to you making you feel powerless in some way. The thing is, you become triggered and react. A very common reaction to these feelings coming up is trying to make them go away by doing things that make you feel good in the moment, things that boost endorphins. Lash out in anger, drink something, eat something, drive fast, buy something, have sex. The common denominator that screams “unhealed belief acting up!” is, the quick fix doesn’t really fix what’s going on because it keeps popping up.

Another way of dealing with unhealed beliefs that trigger us and pop up unexpectedly is control. When a part of us feels amazingly out of control, we do all sorts of odd things that don’t even relate to what originally made us feel so powerless and out of control.

Over years of medicating these types of beliefs with short-term band aids that don’t really fix things (ironically referred to as a “fix”), it’s not uncommon for the reactions to evolve into depression and self-loathing. Depression is old anger and sadness turned inward and not processed. And extremely controlling behavior is OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

These beliefs of self-blame stay with you your entire life, acting up and acting out at times, and you don’t know why. They will stay active until they are dealt with. I can guaran-damn-tee it. In the healing world, the term is transmuted. They are transformed so that they don’t negatively affect you ever again.

Thankfully, there are a variety of ways to transmute feelings of self-blame. The Energy Healing arts is all about transmutation. Therapists do great things with talk therapy. And things like prayer and meditation can work wonders as well. What matters is connecting with that (often unconscious) little one that still exists inside of you that is still feeling blame and letting them know they are perfect, innocent, and an amazing child of God, who was doing what they had to do at the time to survive.

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About mariner2mother

I'm a mother of a very spirited 14 year old son, and a former merchant ship's deck officer. To feed my creative side I take photos and make a very occasional batch of soap. I am also Reiki attuned and am a student of Energy Healing, having used several healing modalities to work on myself and my family.
This entry was posted in Energy Therapy, Holistic Healing, Hypnosis, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to When A Child Blames Themselves For Abuse

  1. susielindau says:

    That must be a heavy load. I had a pretty normal childhood and even I have my aches and pains!

    • Thanks Susie. It’s one of those things that whatever is a person’s normal is what is normal for them. It’s only been in doing healing work and now having a different perspective, that I realize how dysfunctional things were. And for the record, everyone has their challenges, without exception. I wouldn’t call going through breast cancer and reconstructive surgery merely having aches and pains. (Even though I know its behind you). You are a rock star.

  2. CBurns says:

    Beautifully said post. I can relate big time with everything you say here. This post states simple yet complicated truths. Thank you for sharing. xoxo

  3. janonlife says:

    A wonderfully crafted post. Yes, I’ve worked with so many hurt and abused children over the years and seen the self-loathing build up in them. Even those who had a family member who was ill or had died felt they were – in some unfathomable way – to blame. ‘If only I hadn’t been so naughty, Daddy wouldn’t have got ill’ etc.
    Thanks for helping me to see the logic of that. It makes perfect sense, the way you explain it.

    Brilliant that you have found a tool to help yourself heal so well. I hope some of those lovely children I worked with have found similar ways to escape the pain. There was little I could do except to tell them every day what great people they were. It never felt enough, but maybe it made a difference.

    • Thanks Jan. When I learned how this all works recently, it was a huge light bulb going off. I have no doubt at all that your support of all of your students made an impact on every one of them; especially the ones who didn’t get enough support at home.

  4. BigLizzy says:

    Sis, I so completely relate to all of this, obviously. This is an amazing post. It further cements my awe of (and respect for) you and what you endured, sweet friend. I’m so loving how you phrased this part: “You might road rage, or become triggered when you see someone being treated unfairly, or become triggered when something happens to you making you feel powerless in some way. The thing is, you become triggered and react.” YES!! OMG, it’s happened to me so many times. I am so triggered by injustice in the world and animal abuse. These things make me feel crazy. I also HATE being misunderstood. Recently, in therapy, my awesome therapist suggested that I might have some PTSD around the violence, heartbreak, and agony of my childhood. We are going to do some work on this in my coming sessions. Anyway, the thing that has my attention this week is how misunderstood have felt all of my life and how deeply I am wounded around being misunderstood and rejected. When someone (usually my husband) misunderstands me, I go ape-shit! It’s literally “life or death” for me. It was life or death for me with my wack-job mother. I had to defend my very life all of the time. Being misunderstood for me is excruciating and I end up reacting very quickly and not always in a healthy way. I’m really blunt when I’m feeling cornered. Anger is almost always first in line and it’s often very big and severe. I always prevail in any argument, not because I want to fight. I don’t. But, when pushed into it, I have to win because in my child body (deep-down inside), if I don’t win, I die. It’s been so incredible to do this work. You, of all people, Susan, understand this on every level. My Goddess, what a gift you are. Breathing deep. Letting it all wash through me. Dropping my hands and settling into understanding. Delicious. XOXO

    • Lizzy, my sweet dear sister-friend, I’m so glad you found this post. I know that you can relate (unfortunately). I remember reacting to something my husband said to me a number of years ago. I have no idea what he said, but I reacted completely unconsciously, letting ‘er rip with some verbal tongue lashing. I was in total fight or flight defensive mode. When he got upset with my reaction, all I could say was “you have NO idea what I grew up with.” He commented that it was no excuse. In fact, it was the only excuse. Thankfully, I haven’t reacted like that since then. I’m pretty sure I healed whatever that was.

      I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that you have PTSD. How could you not? So proud of you for doing healing work.

  5. I am always inspired by your resilience, strength, and kind spirit. Amazed and blessed to call you a friend.
    Any chance you’ve heard of Trigger Points Anthology? It’s the stories of people who were abused as children now raising their own. If you don’t have a link, let me know. I just received the book in the mail the other day and am eager to start reading it.
    You’re a gift to your family, Susan..and a gift to me. xo

    • Thank you Michelle. You just brought me to tears. I haven’t heard of Trigger Points Anthology. Please do share the link. What’s so funny, is it wasn’t until I really started digging in and doing healing work that I realized how much damage I lived with as “normal.” The beauty is knowing the resilience of our spirit, and being able to live through tons of change. The way I see it, if I can find ways to change, anyone has the potential to do the same.

  6. VERY powerful, and hard to read… but SO important to write! Wow, great job, Susan!

    • Thank you so much Dawn. I’ve learned that one big way I want to be of service to the world (or my small part of it) is to share as I learn and progress. I want for others who have grown up with dysfunction to know that they are not wounded forever. Things can change for the better. (And yes, some days will really suck, but they will get better).

  7. Eli Pacheco says:

    I can’t call what I experienced as a child as abuse, but it wasn’t ideal. I’ve always parented with the intent to never have my kids question whether they endured abuse, too. Also, I think this pattern of self-blame extends into adulthood, even when a clear-cut history of abuse isn’t there.

  8. The Hook says:

    I really don’t have the words right now…
    Thank you for this.

  9. janonlife says:

    I thought you’d like to know that I’ve nominated you for a SUNSHINE BLOGGER AWARD. Details here: https://janstoneblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/ive-got-sunshine-on-a-cloudy-day/
    Entirely up to you whether you’d like to accept it or not, but I think you deserve it!

    • Thank you so much Jan! I’m honored and happily accept this award. It might be a few days (or a week) until I can fulfill the requirements associated with accepting this award, but it will happen.

  10. lrconsiderer says:

    I just…yeah. I get it. And thank you so much for linking me to this post and sharing your story with me. So horrible to read that you’ve experienced so many of the same things as I have, and that you know so intimately the pain and frustration of knowing that somehow you DESERVED what happened.

    I hate that abuse still happens, and I hate the ridiculous impact it’s had on me. I really struggle with the idea that, at 32, I should surely be OVER THIS BY NOW…another blame game.

    I love that you found a way through, and a method of reconnecting with child-you and helping her to heal. I know I need to do that somehow, but at the moment…I’m just not ready to yet – I still can’t stand her and don’t want to be near her or engage with her at all.

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